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Your Environment. Your Health.

History and Goals

Superfund Research Program

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 created the SRP within the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to provide a broad university-based research program capable of addressing the wide array of scientific uncertainties facing the national Superfund program.

SARA established a broad mandate and set of goals for the NIEHS to pursue within the SRP. These mandates include the development of:

  • methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment
  • advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effects on human health of hazardous substances
  • methods to assess the risks to human health presented by hazardous substances
  • basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances

In the Program's first year, 1987, the SRP awarded four university-based research programs with funds of $3 million. In the intervening four years, additional competitions were held and the SRP added five new programs in 1989 and two programs in 1990. In 1992, the Program held a full and open competition. In 1992, the SRP funded 18 grants with funds of over $30 million. Between 1995 and 2000, the size and the funding of the SRP stabilized. Although the number of funded programs remained the same during this time period, both the 1995 and the 2000 grant re-competitions resulted in a one-third turnover of grantees. Consequently, today's Program is a mix of original and new grantees.

Until 2000, the SRP received its funds as pass through dollars from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2000, Congress chose to provide Program funds directly to NIEHS, as a line item in the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies Appropriation. This enabled the SRP to become more flexible, both in use of funding mechanisms and in implementing changes to the award cycle.

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